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Secret 1
Know where to look for jobs
Not only is it not your father's job search anymore. It's not even your slightly older sister's.

While employers still use headhunters to vet candidates, especially for senior positions, increasingly they are relying on resume scanning software and online "assessment" tests to do an initial sort of the wheat from the chaff.

And rather than posting an opening on a general jobs site, which can bring in too many you-must-be-joking candidates, companies are using jobs sites or parts of jobs sites that are specific to their industry, said Mark Bartz, cofounder of resume and job-search consulting firm Executive Careers Inc. They're also beefing up their corporate sites so potential hires with a specific interest in a company may submit resumes.

Increasingly, too, job seekers may submit resumes for a type of job rather than a specific job opening, said Ginny Gomez, vice president of product management of Peopleclick, a recruiting software and consulting firm.

When a job does open up, HR will electronically sort through the resumes looking for key words to find attractive candidates, Bartz said. (See Secret 2 on how to make your resume stand out.)

When you do use a corporate site to submit your resume, you may be asked a series of questions designed to give the employer some sense of whether your personality is a good fit for the type of job you're seeking and to test your advertised skills.

"(The questions) are an ever-growing component to a company's recruiting strategy and knowing this, candidates should know that by not completing an assessment, they are removing themselves from consideration," Gomez said.

Secret 2
Ensure a company wants to talk to you
Tailor your resume so that it highlights high up your experience relevant to the job or type of job in question. Make it easy on the person reading it to figure out why they should consider you, said Phil Carpenter, vice president of marketing at, a jobs search engine.

One way to do that is to "stress results, not activities," said Amy Hoover, executive vice president of TalentZoo, a recruiter specializing in communications jobs.

Your goal is to get the person who eventually reads your resume (and cover letter) to ask, "How did you do that?" said Mark Bartz, cofounder of resume and job-search consulting firm Executive Careers Inc.

What will set you apart from your competition is to give an answer that not only speaks to your education, training and experience, but also to soft skills that you possess but that can't be easily taught, such as intuition, discernment, creativity and resourcefulness. "That's the X factor that gets you the job," he said.

But the only way you'll ever be asked the question is if your resume makes it through the early lines of defense, which may very well be resume scanning software, which looks for key words or phrases specific to the nature of the job you'd like and the industry it's in.

Bartz recommends branding yourself on your resume and cover letter - for example, as "a product marketing manager with expertise in product branding, market research and team-building." Then pick out from your past work experience 12 to 20 key words or phrases that amplify each of those areas of expertise. For instance, for market research, you might have worked on projects involving "demographic analysis" or a "product lifecycle."

Secret 3
Demonstrate that you want the job
Saying that you want a position and showing it are two different things.

What will distinguish you from other candidates is, for starters, a cover letter that lets the recipient know you've actually spent time thinking about the company's business and the role you could play in it if you're hired, said Phil Carpenter, vice president of marketing at, a jobs search engine.

Beyond that, before or after an interview, put something together to show the company how you think it might market its product better or improve its service, said Amy Hoover, executive vice president of TalentZoo, a recruiter specializing in communications jobs. "It will set you apart from the competition."

In an interview, highlight the successful projects you worked on in which you had the most fun because your passion will come through, and that is a trait companies want to see, said Mark Bartz, cofounder of resume and job-search consulting firm Executive Careers Inc.

Secret 4
Stick to the tried-and-true
There are some things about a successful job search that remain timeless:

Having a firm understanding of the nature of the job you're applying for, the company where you'd like to work and the industry the company is in are all critical, said Ginny Gomez, vice president of product management of Peopleclick, a recruiting software and consulting firm.
There's nothing like having an "in" at a company as opposed to just going through HR channels. If you don't know someone personally at a company, you might find a connection through one of the business-focused networking sites such as LinkedIn and NetShare, said Mark Bartz, cofounder of resume and job-search consulting firm Executive Careers Inc. (Read about how LinkedIn works here.)
Once you do get an interview, give the interviewer something to remember you by, such as a sample of a successful project you worked on, said Phil Carpenter, vice president of marketing at, a jobs search engine.
Courtesy is as an asset. "A proper handshake and thank-you-for-your-time goes a long way," said Amy Hoover, executive vice president of TalentZoo, a recruiting firm specializing in communications jobs. And be sure to email a thank-you note within 24 hours after an interview.

The Four Principles of Career Distinction
By William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson

To succeed and find fulfillment in the new world of work, you must change the way you think about your career. It's time to treat career management as an ongoing activity. Creating your personal brand is a great way to get you to change the way you think about your career. Your ultimate goal should be to distinguish yourself for career success.

But before you start working on building your brand, you'll need to adopt a new mindset -- the Career Distinction mindset. This new way of thinking about your career is comprised of four simple principles. Adopt these principles, and get ready to grab hold of your future!

Principle #1: Stand Out. Stand for Something.

Just doing your job, and even doing it well, is no longer enough. "Loyalty" and "longevity" were the watchwords of the past. In today's workplace, creativity has trumped loyalty; individuality has replaced conformity; pro-activity has superseded hierarchy. You can't wait for job assignments -- you must create them. With intense competition and pressure from shareholders to deliver ever-higher returns, companies have begun scrutinizing each and every employee to assess his or her value to the organization. If members of the executive team don't know you're there (regardless of the amount of hard work you contribute), then, unfortunately, they figure they won't miss you when you're gone.

In corporate positions, sales, independent business, and even politics and the media, people have now realized that you need to "make a name for yourself" if you hope to stay in your profession. Those who can simply do the job don't receive nearly as many opportunities as those who carve out a unique niche for themselves. And the higher you move up the corporate ladder, the more important this kind of personal branding becomes. It's all about adding value beyond what those in your same or similar positions deliver. It's about standing out, and standing for something special. So get out of your comfy office and make sure all the people around you understand the value you deliver to your organization.

Principle #2: Be Your Own Boss.

To take the helm of your career and steer it toward your future, you must be your own boss -- controlling your destiny, finding and seizing opportunities, and marching up the ramp of advancement in your profession. As your own career boss, you decide which positions you will take, how much effort you'll invest in each job, and how you'll handle the challenges you'll inevitably encounter. You control how you present yourself and your intellectual and emotional assets, and even whom you position as your allies and your opponents.

At first thought, you might disagree. Perhaps you think your manager -- or the CEO or board of directors -- controls your future. Maybe you assume that your company's success -- in the form of rising stock price, customer satisfaction, and profitability -- will carry you indefinitely. Never count on outside forces to ensure your success. You can't control these forces, so you'll constantly be vulnerable to them. But you do control your own personal brand. Consider this: your skills and unique personal attributes don't disappear if your company's stock price plummets. Your future doesn't unravel if an executive who powerfully supported your advancement leaves the company. Your personal assets are yours, and no one can take them away from you. You must take responsibility for these assets and use them to your advantage. In short, seek strength in yourself, not your circumstances.

Principle #3: Forget Climbing the Ladder. It's a Ramp.

Many people still think of their career as a ladder with their ultimate goal being that top rung. Even from the bottom, you can see the top rung off in the distance. You climb the ladder, progressing in your career one milestone at a time. At each rung, you work diligently on what you're doing at that moment. In fact, you might occasionally find yourself stuck in that moment. You forget about that next step because you're sure you'll get there when the right time comes without encountering any obstacles. And with that mindset, you've fallen into complacency.

Then something happens. Perhaps you become bored and seek a greater challenge or perhaps the project you're working on falls through for whatever reason. Only when that "something" happens do you think about that next rung in your career. You put together your resume, reconnect with lost professional contacts, and so forth. You expend enormous effort connecting with recruiters, writing cover letters, refining your career marketing materials, searching through job boards -- all the failsafe methods that people used back when the world of work was predictable.

But in today's knowledge economy, this sporadic, effortful approach to career management is no longer the best approach. Instead, you have to get rid of the rungs of the ladder (sorry,! We do love your name!) and view your career climb as a continuous ramp. When you're ascending a ramp, you don't stop and relax -- you're constantly advancing, in perpetual motion toward your professional goals. In this scenario, you don't wait for a trigger to move you to the next step in your career. You manage that movement yourself, every day of your life and with everything you do -- every project you manage, every meeting you attend, every phone call you place.

Once you adopt this mindset and make these corresponding behaviors part of your regular routine, you never have to make a focused effort to work on your career again. Instead, you're always thinking about it and tweaking it as a matter of course. It's like brushing your teeth in the morning: career management becomes something you just do.

Principle #4: Build Your Personal Brand.

If these elements of the Career Distinction mindset sound familiar, that's not surprising. Corporate marketers have used them for years. It's called branding. The Career Distinction mindset puts you in position to brand yourself, much like a company or product.

Remember, while corporate branding typically requires scores of ad execs and million-dollar marketing budgets, personal branding requires only you. You are your own 24/7 billboard and interactive ad campaign. Every day, in everything you do, you tell the world about yourself, your values, your goals, and your skills. In fact, you already have a brand -- even if you don't know what it is, and even if it isn't working for you the way you'd like it to. Clarify and create your personal brand in order to achieve career distinction. Then, communicate that brand unerringly to those around you. You're well on your way toward career advancement!



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This page was last updated on Thursday July 16, 2009